This Traditional Bolognese Sauce is made using all the authentic ingredients like beef, pork, fresh tomato purée, then cooked low and slow for hours to develop a rich, hearty taste.
Cook low and slow for the best results
Bolognese sauce is a rich, thick meat sauce that needs to cook for 4 hours. Yes, 4 hours! Trust me (I make this almost weekly) and you can read the comments to back this up.
I’ve had people say (and I do agree) that after 2 hours it does seem like it’s ready and it’s pretty good, but 4 is best. I’ve had questions about adding the milk and that it seems weird. It’s not and it’s how they do it in Italy. It helps the sauce develop its richness and after 4 hours, you don’t even know that it’s in there.
Bolognese sauce, also known in Italy as ragú, originates from one of my favorite Italian cities, Bologna. I did a lot of research before writing this recipe as there are many variations of Bolognese, but this recipe is as close to the real thing.
What are the best meats to use?
The meats used in a Bolognese sauce are traditionally 50% each of ground beef and pork with a really great flavor booster, pancetta (Italian unsmoked bacon). You can use all beef if you’re not a pork eater.
White wine is added (white is traditional, but you can use red if you prefer) along with a good quality tomato puree, milk and beef stock. The longer this sauce is simmered, the better the flavor so set aside a good 4 hours for the best result. When one would expect oregano or basil to be used in an Italian recipe, seasonings are very minimal in Bolognese. Only salt and pepper is used.
This sauce is not only used in Lasagna Bolognese (see pic below) it can also be served with wide, flat tagliatelle, a pasta that can hold the weight of the sauce.
How much sauce does this recipe make?
This traditional Bolognese recipe makes 3 quarts/12 cups of sauce. You will need a large pan for this and the reason I made so much is because this sauce is going in a traditional lasagna Bolognese (which is also very large and really good!) You can find that recipe here > lasagna Bolognese.
Now, it may see obvious to cook this Bolognese sauce in a stock pan, but this is not the best for helping the sauce reduce. As you can see by the images, I use a wide braising pan which is 11-inches in diameter and 4 quarts and can hold all the ingredients. A 4-quart deep skillet will work also.
What is the difference between a Ragu and Bolognese?
Both are Italian sauces with differences, but they are both made with meat and it’s the choice of meats that make the difference in the sauces. Bolognese (Ragu all Bolognese) originates from Bologna, Italy. Ragu is from Naples Italy. They both use soffrito (carrots, celery, pancetta), white wine, beef broth and tomato sauce. The other difference is the pasta that they are served with. Ragu is served with spaghetti, where Bolognese is served with a wider pasta.
What is a marinara sauce?
Marinara is a tomato based sauce that has not meat. I have an easy recipe for this sauce here easy homemade marinara sauce.
Traditional Bolognese Sauce – Step by Step
Step 1 – brown the beef, pork and pancetta, salt and pepper in olive oil and butter. Step 2– Add the veggies. Chopped onion, celery and carrot (then garlic). Step 3 – Mix in the wine and reduce a little. Step 4– Add the tomato puree, beef stock and milk. Mix, partially cover and leave for 4 hours.
Slow Cooker Method
This is the perfect sauce that can be cooked in the slow cooker. Prepare as the recipe instructs and after step 3, transfer the sauce to a slow cooker pre-heated on high and let it cook away for 4 hours.
This sauce freezes really well
I know that this recipe makes a lot of sauce, but it is so good I always make a full batch and freeze the rest because I end up craving it. To freeze any cooked leftovers, add the cooled sauce to a container with a good lid and seal well. You can keep it frozen for 3 months. To reheat, defrost in the fridge overnight and reheat in a pan.
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Traditional Bolognese sauce
This traditional Bolognese sauce is made using all the authentic ingredients like beef, pork, fresh tomato purée, then cooked low and slow for hours to develop a rich, hearty taste.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 ½ pounds 80/20 ground beef
- 1 ½ pounds ground pork
- 6 ounces pancetta chopped finely
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 11 ounces large onion finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks finely chopped
- 6 ounces (1 large) carrot finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves grated or finely chopped
- 1 cup white wine or red if you prefer
- 3 1/2 cups good quality can tomato puree 28 ounces
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup beef stock
To a large, heavy saucepan add the oil and butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and bubbly, add the beef, pork, pancetta, salt, pepper. Brown, breaking up the meat while cooking.
When the meat is browned, add the onion, celery and carrots, mix well and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
Add the wine, stir and allow to cook and reduce slightly for about 3 minutes. Add the tomato purée, milk, stock and mix well.
Partially cover and simmer for 4 hours, stirring often to prevent it sticking to the bottom. If any fat rises to the top, use a spoon to skim it off.
If you find that the liquid is not reducing, remove the lid completely and make sure the sauce is bubbling. It may get messy.
- When done, taste for seasoning and adjust to your taste.